OXFORD, Miss. - The reigning SEC Co-Player of the Week Devontae Shuler returned home and put on one of his best performances in a Rebel uniform Saturday evening.
The Ole Miss Rebels held on late and earned their fourth straight victory, knocking off South Carolina 81-74 behind a career high 31 points (8 of 13 FG) for Irmo, South Carolina, native Shuler.
“It means a lot,” Shuler said. “I’ve never had a win here. I just locked in because I knew this was my last game here and for my team and family in the stands. I did what I did to make them happy.”
Shuler’s career night was his seventh this season with 20+ points and included a season-high seven rebounds.
Romello White finished with 14 points (5 of 9 FG) and five boards, while KJ Buffen added 12 points and four boards coming off the bench. Ole Miss (12-8, 7-6 SEC) shot 50 percent (22 of 44) from the floor as a unit, the third consecutive game shooting 50 percent or better. The Rebels also scored a season-high 34 points from the free throw line on 44 attempts, playing a key role at Colonial Life Arena.
Defense took center stage early on, as both teams struggled from beyond the arc with five consecutive misses. However, the Rebels found their points near the basket as they jumped out to a 6-0 lead and didn’t allow a single Gamecock bucket until there was 15:04 on the clock. The Rebels forced South Carolina (5-9, 3-7 SEC) to start 1 of 8 from the field heading into the first media timeout. The Gamecocks proceeded to find a few open looks and makes, but Ole Miss answered at the free throw line.
Sammy Hunter’s layup and-one made it another six-point ball game with 11:59 remaining in the first half. South Carolina responded with a 6-0 run of their own to tie the game after a brutally physical couple of minutes. A three-pointer from AJ Lawson gave South Carolina its first lead of the game, but Shuler immediately responded with a three of his own to put Ole Miss up 17-15 with 7:26 left in the half.
After a back-and-forth three minutes, the Rebels used a 13-2 run to go up by 13 after a three-point bucket from Buffen. The Gamecocks scored five straight going into the locker room trailing Ole Miss 36-28. The Rebels shot 48 percent (13 of 27) from the floor with 18 points coming from the paint (10) and the charity stripe (8 of 10). Defensively the Rebels forced South Carolina to shoot 37 percent (10 of 27) and commit 11 turnovers.
Shuler already had 13 points (5 of 7 FG) with three assists while Buffen and White each had seven at the break, the latter with a team high four rebounds. To begin the second half, the Rebels used a pair of three-point plays from White and Shuler with a transition dunk from Jarkel Joiner to go back up 13 four minutes in. However, with 14:49 left in the half, South Carolina already found itself in the bonus.
Over the next four minutes and change, the Rebels maintained their double-digit advantage and Shuler’s three-pointer with 10:14 to go gave Ole Miss their largest lead of the game at 60-45. A free throw from Allen gave them at 16-point advantage a little over a minute later. After later taking an 18-point lead, the Gamecocks went on a 7-0 run to cut the deficit to 11 with 4:33 left to play while in the double bonus. Despite a late surge from South Carolina, the Rebels used the free throw line to hold on down the stretch and earn another SEC victory.
“Anytime you can win on the road in this league, it’s great,” Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis said. “Our team showed a lot of poise. Really proud of our team.”